Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, we can earn a commission if you click through and purchase.
Additional disclosure: We were provided with free product from U-Pol Raptor in return for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions herein are solely of The Roamans, and we were not in any way influenced by U-Pol and/or its affiliates whatsoever.
Recently, my (Marisa) van Grizzy got a makeover, and let me tell you, it was much deserved. It’s been a while since we posted, so let’s start with a bit of an update.
Practical choices for me included letting go of a lot of aesthetic choices I made during my build and instead, creating a more functional space. For instance, I took down my moss wall and added a porthole—which is a world of difference for wind flow in the van. Another practical choice included adding more durability to the body of the van. We plan on spending 2019 trekking through a lot of desert and BLM land which means that there will be a lot of dust, dirt, rocks, and grime all up in Grizzy’s business. That’s why I made the decision to coat the van’s trim and hood in U-Pol Raptor Bed Liner.
I've seen a lot of vans painted with the Raptor bed liner and thought it was pure genius. Raptor protective coating protects against rust, corrosion salt, damp and extreme temperatures, plus it is waterproof, flexible, and helps deaden sound and vibrations. Sounds like the perfect coating for the exterior of a conversion van, right?
I'm going to be honest with you, I was scared to do it myself. A lot of people who chose U-Pol Raptor Liner had a professional apply it for them. For me, this just seemed like a very expensive endeavor. Vanessa and I were quoted in Austin, Texas upwards of $3,000 for it to be applied, which is just baffling. And not in the cards for me.
So, I embarked on the journey of applying it myself. And since the Raptor paint kits were supplied to us by U-Pol, the costs for me on this entire project were less than $50. With that said, let's go into the highlights of this paint project and some of the most critical components if you're going to apply it yourself.
1) Preparation is Critical...
If ever you've painted anything before, you know that half the battle is preparing the surface for the paint. This same rule applies for painting a conversion van. The best part about ordering the Raptor bed liner kits is that many of them have almost everything you need to prepare your surface. I began with the hood because 1) I was nervous and 2) in case it turned out like garbage, I could always just sell a kidney and replace the hood.
I began prepping the surface by using a water-based degreaser to clean off all the road grime and crap. This was the solvent I used:
Be warned...this stuff is potent. Make sure you wear a mask during the entire project because the last thing you want is a beautiful van but a ton of shit in your lungs.
After degreasing the area, I wiped it down with a cloth. Then, I took the abrasive blocks that were included in the kit and began scrubbing the heck out of the surface. You don't want to abrade down to bare metal, so don't worry about going too hard. You simply want to remove the protective paint coating on top and get the surface to resemble more of a matte, or a dull look.
Use the degreaser again after this, and then wipe clean again.
The next step for me was to tape up the areas which were not to be painted. Let me preface this by saying this step is the bane of my existence. I don't know what it is about taping up non-paintable areas, but it is just annoying to me. Maybe it's because it takes a decent amount of patience and time, or maybe it's because I can't just dive right in to the actual crux of the project. (Sigh). Regardless, don't skip this step because it makes a WORLD of difference.
After taping up the parts, you'll want to apply an adhesion promoter in order to help the bed liner adhere to the van. I've read a lot of people skipping this step, and while I considered it, I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. I'm sure that down the road when sand winds from the desert are beating against my van, I'll be glad I did.
This is the product I used:
I sprayed this on as directed and let it sit for 20 minutes before the fun officially began.
2) Follow U-Pol Raptor's Instructions Carefully
While it might seem like there are a lot of instructions being thrown at you, it's actually relatively simple to follow. I do have to say that U-Pol does a great job in breaking down what you need to do in order to get this project finished. From the preparation to the actual execution, I understood everything that was expected of me in order to get this van looking sharp.
3. Choose Your Method Of Application Wisely
There are two ways in which you can apply Raptor product: by spray gun or through the roll-on method. Spray gun requires a bit more preparation and will also need you to tape your non-paintable surfaces up waaaaay more than roll-on. However, some issues that people have faced with the roll-on method is making sure than everything comes out even. I chose the roll-on method because I wanted the project to be as simple as possible, and the good news is I think I chose right. With the roll-on application, U-Pol sends in their kits two sponge rollers, two paint trays, and gloves. Always, always wear the gloves. This stuff gets so sticky and hard to remove.
4. Go Carefully Through Each Step, But Work Fast!
During the actual application of the U-Pol Raptor bed liner, make sure to work swiftly, but efficiently. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but let me explain. Once you add the included hardener into the actual paint liner, you have 60 minutes before everything turns to a hardened, non-applicable mess. The hardener works SO quickly that you really only have an hour to get the first coat on. The good news is, there are more than enough paint liner bottles included in each kit to get a solid two coats on, which is all I needed.
5. Fill In All The Little Cracks & Crevices
After I did my first coat, I used the rest of the product to fill in all the little cracks and crevices. I found the most effective way to do this was with these sponge brushes:
You can get a pack on Amazon by clicking above, or just visit your local dollar store. I used these sponge brushes to get into all the white spots still left, and believe it or not, I did not need another go-around after just doing it once.
6. Don't Skip The Cure Time...
Just because you're finished painting doesn't mean the job is over. You HAVE to let this paint cure properly. To the touch, it'll be dry in an hour. To be in rain, let it cure 72 hours. Ultimately, the paint may take up to a week to settle in and cure. This is absolutely essential if you don't want to muck up everything you just did.
My Honest Review...
Yes, we ended up receiving product by U-Pol Raptor in order to write a review. Yes, I will review this product and experience honestly. The bare bones of it all is that my van looks so friggin' great after this application. It really added character, durability, and texture to an otherwise regular Sprinter van. I originally was going to paint the entire van in this bed liner, but I'm so grateful I just did the hood and the trim. Aesthetically, it looks so unbelievably rugged. I am amazed. The bed liner also corrected so many rust spots I had on the lower half of the van. After prepping the surface properly, the bed liner will protect these otherwise vulnerable spots from further deterioration.
The only con I would discuss about this project is that there is a slightly uneven look in some areas of the hood. I can't necessarily blame this on the product itself, because I'm a novice painter and rolled it on. I can say that Vanessa had a professional spray hers on and it looks extremely even all around. But, I have heard that the product needs time to cure up to a week, so I'll provice an update after I have given it the proper cure time. The photos only show the product after about an hour or so.
Below of some photos of the project. All in all, it took maybe under 4 hours total to do the hood and the trim, including all the preparation. It was an afternoon well-spent and I cannot recommend this product more. If you want to add an extra layer of protection and durability to your conversion van, then U-Pol Raptor product will be your best bet.
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!
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